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Saturday, 17 June, 2000, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Northern Ireland birthday honours
John Semple pictured with David Trimble and Seamus Mallon
John Semple pictured with David Trimble and Seamus Mallon
Northern Ireland people, from all walks of life, have been honoured in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

They include John Laughlin Semple, head of the civil service, who has received a knighthood.

The former sports star, Mary Peters, becomes a Dame for services to sport and to the community as does Geraldine Keegan for services to secondary education.

The former Liberal Democrats leader, Paddy Ashdown, becomes a Knight of the British Empire.

The Governor of Maghaberry Prison, Martin Mogg, becomes a Commander of the British Empire as does the chairman of the Omagh Fund, Sean O'Dwyer.

Knight, Order of the Bath

John Semple, who retires as the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service in August, is the only person in the province to be awarded a Knighthood.

Since devolution, Mr Semple has also been Secretary to the power-sharing Executive Cabinet and is responsible for the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers David Trimble and Seamus Mallon.

He joined the civil service in 1962. Married with two sons and a daughter, Mr Semple was educated at Campbell College in Belfast and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he graduated in History.

He was appointed to the top job in 1997, and had been a permanent secretary in the Department of Finance and Personnel since 1988.

Dame of the British Empire

In 1972, Mary Peters won her Olympic gold medal with a world record in the pentathlon.

Mary Peters
Mary Peters: Becomes a Dame
In the wake of that remarkable achievement, she became a worldwide ambassador for sport, and built an athletics track in Belfast for the entire community.

She was awarded the CBE in 1990 and now she becomes a Dame.

Dame Mary said she was delighted but "shocked" to receive the award for her work with charities.

"I feel almost embarrassed about it, because it has been a pleasure for me to serve so many charities and so many sports organisations over the years," she said.

"I was quite shocked when I opened the letter, in fact I thought it was a bill because it had a little window in the envelope."

She is currently the driving force behind plans for a museum to immortalise Northern Ireland's greatest sporting idols.

She has promised that the first exhibit will be her own gold medal.

Although born in Halewood, Lancashire, Dame Mary has lived in the province since her schooldays.

Geraldine Keegan is the head teacher of St Mary's College in the Creggan area of Londonderry, which is one of Northern Ireland's most successful schools.

It was the first school in the UK to receive three charter marks for excellence, the government's gold medal of public service.

Geraldine Keegan
Geraldine Keegan: Honoured for services to education
On top of this, St Mary's has also won a number of European and Northern Ireland awards.

Miss Keegan was appointed the school's first lay principal in 1987. She is already an OBE and now becomes a Dame.

Knight of the British Empire

Paddy Ashdown is honoured with a KBE under his full name of the Rt Hon Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, MP.

He resigned last year as leader of the Liberal Democrats after 11 years.

The party was revitalised in his charge, though with his reputation as the "action man" of British politics, Mr Ashdown was arguably more popular personally than was his party.

His father was an Irish-born British Army colonel in India.

When he retired, he moved the family to a pig farm in Comber, County Down.

The nickname "Paddy" came after Ashdown junior enrolled at a private school near London.

Later, Mr Ashdown served with the Royal Marines as a commando, then a foreign service officer before spending the last years of his military career in Northern Ireland. He is married with a daughter and a son.

Commander of the British Empire

Martin Mogg was governor of the Maze Prison when the Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright was shot dead in the jail.

He survived repeated calls for his resignation by politicians, and is currently Governor of Maghaberry Prison.

He is awarded the CBE. Between October 1997 and September 1998, Mr Mogg added the role of Maze Governor to his more senior position as head of operational management of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

It was one of the most difficult times for the service. The IRA prisoner Liam Averill managed to escape by disguising himself as a woman just days before the Billy Wright murder.

In the aftermath of the Omagh bomb in 1998, Sean O'Dwyer was appointed as chairman of the five trustees of the Omagh Fund, which has raised millions for the victims of the tragedy and their relatives.

He is awarded the CBE. At the official launch of the fund he predicted the demands on the fund would be "far greater in human scale than any other disaster in these islands since 1945".

He is a former deputy chairman of the clothing firm Desmond and Sons and a former pro chancellor of the University of Ulster. He is already an OBE and a JP.

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